God has shown us what is good and what is required of us. So much of our religion is not required by God—some of it is not even good. These three things are written in our hearts by God:
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8).
All people—every tribe, nation, and people group—instinctively know these three things are good, thus these three the LORD requires of every person. When all the religious façade is set aside, do we DO the three good things God requires?
If we cloud our children’s understanding by teaching them to look like, walk like, and talk like a Christian, yet by our example we deny the most critical importance of any one of these three things, then we have failed at the most basic child training in what God requires of all people.
This is why some lost families do better at raising children than some religious families do.
God requires us to “do justly.” This is a major theme of the Bible as seen by a simple word search of the words just, justly, judgment, and justice. Judgment is the outworking of “doing justly,” and is often used synonymously with justice. A good man is to be honest, open, and straightforward in his dealings with others. A good man would never make a deal that conceals information pertinent to the buyer. My husband, Mike, has a difficult time selling a used car because he tells the buyer everything that is wrong with it and anything he thinks could go wrong in the future. Prospective buyers have actually said, “Are you trying to talk me out of buying it?” He says that he sells a car to strangers like he would sell it to his family members. That is doing justly. Children are keen to perceive justice or the lack thereof in their parents.
A good man will always do justly.
I grew up watching my dad purchase hay for his cows. It was always interesting to note how some people would go out of their way to make sure they offered good-quality hay, while others would consistently try to pawn off the lesser-quality hay as top grade. Dad knew the difference. It both irritated and amused him, but it also kept him from ever trusting or commending the man who did not do justly. I suppose both hay sellers had a clear conscience. The poor-quality hay seller was doubtlessly pleased with himself for being a good businessman, but he failed to do the good thing God requires. If you fail at what God requires, you are a loser.
My dad was an eminently just and generous man and he prospered because of it, having a good name everywhere. He would rather have taken a loss than to have been unjust.
Many fine, religious people live by the letter of the law as they seek their own in a competitive world but do not have the heart of a just man.
Jesus confronted the hypocrisy of letter religion.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:23)
Jesus is referencing this very passage in Micah. He interprets “do justly” as judgment, and “walk humbly with thy God” as “faith,” providing us with an expanded view of the subject.
Judgment is not the act of judging others. It is a heart that sees the truth and weighs everything with mercy and humility. It is easy to make judgments about others (without mercy or humility), but it is quite another thing to make judgments that require us to commit to the good of others.
To love mercy is to find it delightful to extend compassion where religion would judge and walk on by. Mercy sees the need for patience, for sympathy, for longsuffering, for suspension of retaliation and rejection. Mercy is putting others before your repulsion and disgust. Mercy is having pity, compassion, and understanding. Mercy is a willingness to lay down your life for another. Mercy is responding in a positive manner first, and then, if you have to judge, doing so with humility. Mercy is seeing each person as a soul destined for eternity. It is caring deeply enough to pray, and looking for any way possible to lead them to the right path. Mercy is sadness when you see the judgment of God come down on someone even when you know they deserved God’s hand of wrath. Mercy is also calling for the judgment of God when you see the need. God says a good person will do more than show mercy; he will “love mercy.”
I am not preaching to others. We had an incident in our own office this week that exposed our lack of mercy. A man called and said he had just gotten out of prison, but while there he had requested a Good and Evil book. The book didn’t arrive before he was set free, so he wanted the office to send him a free book. It is our policy and habit to send books to those incarcerated free of charge. But we expect those who can to pay for them. Upon being informed of our policy and hearing a suggestion that he was now able to buy his own, be became rude, indignant, and demanding. The staff was following protocol, but they were faced with the options of following the letter of the law or making a judgment and showing mercy.
Clearly the man was desperate for a book that contains the gospel, but he was unthankful and hostile. The unfortunate personnel on the phone felt the sting of it. Before it was over, several office personnel had to deal with the angry man as his irritation escalated.
It is easy for me to make a judgment concerning the issue because I was not shouted at, cursed, or threatened in such a manner that would make most people want to refuse life support to the guy if he were dying. But removed from the passion, it is clear that the man needed MERCY. I know from years of ministry with inmates that when a man gets out of prison he is scared, without funds or hope of a job, and often in desperate need of showing those he loves that he is or has something of value. I can just see this man in prison hoping the book comes before he gets out, but it doesn’t show up. He has most likely told his kids how cool the book is and how he can get them one. His need is greater than his wisdom. He needed mercy. He didn’t deserve mercy, but he needed mercy. I am sad as I write this because we here at No Greater Joy failed to give him mercy. I have prayed for him, but it is not the same as giving him mercy.
Mercy is something we need to cultivate in ourselves as well as in our children. We can model mercy, and we can teach mercy as we “walk by the way” with our children. Occasions will arise among the children when they are faced with choosing the letter of the law or showing mercy. Home life is a classroom of mercy.
I have one daughter who is kinder than most anyone I know. Although she relates to people in mercy, her kindness is not always a fruit of the Spirit; it is her natural personality to not judge, for she is naturally sensitive to the feelings of others. Would that more of us were so naturally blessed. We must remember that mercy does not stand alone; it is in the company of justice and judgment. Where there is a lack of judgment, the expression of mercy can be a fault, for it is devoid of wisdom and ceases to be constructive, being received as normalizing the faults in others rather than showing wise judgment with mercy.
Mercy is a making a decision based on God’s heart. It is seeing the eternal picture and responding to that end. To LOVE mercy is greatly to be desired. God says a good person will “love mercy.” We need to pray that God teaches us to love mercy, we need to practice loving mercy, and we need to repent when we fail.
Remember, Jesus expanded the meaning of “walking humbly with thy God” as having faith in God. It is generally believed that biblical humility is a personal demeanor in regard to our fellow man. This is false. You will notice God said, “walk humbly with thy God.” It is about a walk with God—a walk of faith, as Jesus noted. Some people are just naturally self-effacing and reticent to step forward. If such a person is also gifted and accomplished, we think of them as humble. They are indeed humble before men, but that has nothing to do with biblical humility in regard to God. Walking humbly is not a cloak we wear or a personality style we perfect. It is really quite the opposite.
Walking humbly is being completely aware of God, his righteousness, his glory, his judgments, his loves, his desires, and his will; it is also honoring his WORD. He did say he put his Word above his name. Walking humbly before God is living like—and totally believing—that there is no righteousness outside the shed blood of Jesus. Your testimony is that you are not any better than any other, and never will be. Your only hope is in forgiveness.
How does this relate to child training? More is caught than taught.
Walking humbly before God is a walk of productivity in serving God and doing his will over one’s own. Such a one will value what and whom God values. Walking humbly is believing and appreciating what God says in his written Word and acting on it. Walking humbly before God doesn’t exclude or dismiss others who are not in one’s circle or class.
How does this relate to child training? More is caught than taught. A mother who dishonors her husband will be dishonored. A father who treats his wife without charity will be scorned. A man who is not just in his dealings will raise sons and daughters who live a life of dishonesty. A mother who is kind to all in her circle of friends but twists the truth concerning others will raise children who come to disdain her. And parents who count what others think of them as more important than walking in truth before God will surely hate their just due.
God did not create a religious road and say that anyone who steps off the road gets persecuted. He planted these three things deep in our hearts because being and doing these will bring good. He said, “do justly,” as it will bring greater good to all; he said, “love mercy,” because it will bring help to all in need; and he said, “walk humbly with thy God,” because to do so is wise. These three things God requires.